So this is Christmas? Judging by the bluebells, bright-leafed oaks and dropping butterfats in the milk, it must be spring and I have missed the deadline for my end of 2016 update. I can only apologise. Well that’s not altogether true. I could come around to your place with a bunch of flowers, a bottle of fine English bubbly and give you a foot massage, but that would be excessive, not to say intrusive. So what’s happened since last summer?
Well, to be candid, late summer was pretty stressful, for me especially. Pam and Francis had their differences as to the way forward for the business, he wanting to move to bigger premises, she urging a more cautious approach, balancing their events business with more modest cheese volumes, but I was the one under pressure.
Beyond the cool, moist walls of the maturation room, temperatures were in the high 20s and humidity lower than a Saharan sandpit. The blast of air each time they checked in on me was enough to turn me agoraphobic. Then they left me for a couple of days. After the morning wash (with brine and a little vodka), they checked the humidifier and temperatures, thinking, I suppose, that I’d be fine alone. The morning was comfortable, but during the afternoon the light on the humidifier flickered and was gone. The air dried and the drips on the walls began to shrink. The afternoon became uncomfortably warm, but eased overnight. Day two brought new levels of discomfort. The room began to smell – the stressing cultures emitting odours unpleasant even to fans of the strongest pongs. I started to lose weight and my rind lost its healthy lustre. By the time they returned I was a shadow of the cheese I should have been, destined to grace the Gimblett table only. Moreover, the power cut had rendered all stock in the fridges unsaleable.
Pam and Francis still attended the Haslemere Food Festival for which the batches had been destined, and spent the day conjuring images of what the cheese might taste like, had they any. Thankfully, John Cleese was nowhere to be seen.
The rest of the year seemed to go to plan. The winter’s commercial trials – selling to a small number of retailers – led to some very encouraging comments and, as pleasingly, escalating sales; allowing Pam and Francis to judge market pricing and potential volumes. Since then they have increased volumes and outlets, but the business for the events company has been proving harder to maintain due to conspiring market forces, and the pair are considering scaling up further. But this, I am pleased to announce, is something that Francis will be able to tell you about himself in subsequent blogs, as I am downing my pen, my reportage on the beginnings of Gimblett Cheese done.